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Clin Radiol. 1988 Jan;39(1):33-7.

The plain chest radiograph after acute smoke inhalation.

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  • 1Institute of Radiological Sciences, Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Dublin.


Serial chest radiographs of 45 patients from a major fire disaster were assessed for the effects of smoke inhalation injury. Thirty-three had abnormal chest radiographs on admission. Bronchial wall thickening was present in a total of 29 patients, subglottic oedema in 13, pulmonary oedema in seven, and patchy consolidation in three. Seven patients developed pulmonary oedema following initial exposure. This was the cause of death in two patients. Serial chest radiographs were useful in monitoring this very severe complication. Bronchial wall thickening and subglottic oedema were common early findings and thus may herald more serious subsequent respiratory embarrassment. Subglottic oedema is a previously undescribed finding. It not only indicates damage to the upper airways but may also indicate damage to the lung parenchyma. It may also make endotracheal intubation difficult. Therefore, the initial chest radiograph is an important predictor of significant smoke inhalation injuries enabling selection of patients likely to need ventilatory support.

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